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Scanning for rootkits with chkrootkit

Scanning for rootkits with chkrootkit

Up-to-date and secure installations, firewalls, limited ssh access and strong passwords are all basic and essential aspects of security.

But what about the content of your VPS/Server? One method of monitoring content is to scan for rootkits.


Scanning for rootkits will not stop them, it is not an active defence.

By saying that, I mean if your VPS/Server has been compromised then a scan will not stop the rootkit and there is, to be blunt, not a lot you can do about it. By all means have a go but the general consensus is that if your server has been compromised then start again from fresh.

It would be worth finding out how the rootkit got into your server in the first place, so it doesn't happen again, but you are left with one option: reinstall.

So this article is about the scanning mechanism rather than how something may have entered your system. It is about checking the validity of the VPS/Server content.


Scanning is easily done with a programme called chkrootkit. This can also be automated so you don't have to log in and scan on a daily basis

We're going to install chkrootkit from source. It is available from most repositories but installing from source ensures we have not installed a compromised scanning system (it's been known to happen!).

Let's go. Log into your VPS and navigate to your sources directory (the sources directory can be placed anywhere. I like it in my admin home folder so no one else would have access to it and it is easily navigated):

cd ~/sources


Download the latest chkrootkit version (this command will always fetch the latest version):


md5 check

To check that the file you have is the same file that intended you to have, check the md5 signature. To do this enter:

md5sum chkrootkit.tar.gz

This will create an output that is unique to the downloaded file – check this with the md5 signature which is available from a mirror website (see the note below):

Note: You may notice that I have checked the md5sum from a different server. I'm not paranoid but with something as important as this I want to make sure I don't have a dodgy download (thanks Ron).

If the two don't match then you have a compromised download. You will notice as you download more and more source code that they all have md5 or other style of signatures for integrity checks.


Unpack the download and move into the new directory:

tar xvfz chkrootkit.tar.gz
cd chkrootkit-0.49

In this example, I downloaded and unpacked version 0.49 – remember the download command above will always download the latest version.


Now you need to compile the programme, which will take less than 2 seconds:

make sense

You can keep the folder in your sources directory or move the whole thing elsewhere more convenient for you. In this example, I will keep it in the sources directory.


To run the chkrootkit, simply give the command as the sudo user:

sudo ./chkrootkit

The output on my demo VPS/Server gave the all clear but a warning may look something like this:

Warning: Possible Showtee Rootkit installed
/usr/include/file.h /usr/include/proc.h
You have 9 process hidden for readdir command
You have 11 process hidden for ps command
chkproc: Warning: Possible LKM Trojan installed

Check the warnings. If you are infected you will need to rebuild your VPS/Server with a fresh image.


Naturally, all this can be automated with a cron job. As the procedure needs to be run as root, enter the root crontab configuration:

sudo crontab -e

The recommended method (from the chkrootkit website) is as follows:

0 3 * * * (cd /home/demo/sources/chkrootkit-0.49; ./chkrootkit 2>&1 | mail -s "chkrootkit output"

That will run the command at 3am every day and, providing you have ‘mail' installed and configured, email the results to the specified address.

PickledOnion @ SliceHost

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